Imagine the sandy shores of your favorite cruise line private island. Now, imagine you’re on an itinerary that only calls there.
In my year-plus covering the cruise industry and private-island development for Travel Weekly, agents have often told me that private islands have become so popular with passengers that — some day — some cruise lines will offer itineraries that will feature only private-island calls.
As it turns out, a handful of contemporary cruise lines have quietly been offering short cruises on which the only stop is at a private destination.
For instance, Royal Caribbean International is offering a few such four-day cruises from Miami. One arrives at Perfect Day at CocoCay, then spends the next two days at sea. Another goes just to Labadee, its private beach in Haiti. Another itinerary calls at both Labadee and Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Private islands across the lines tend to be among the highest rated calls in passenger reviews, said Anthony Hamawy, president of Cruise.com, who has anticipated that cruise lines would embrace itineraries that only visit their own properties.
“Some of those megaships [themselves] are a private destination,” he said. “And sailing to a private island for a weekend cruise? I could definitely see that.”
Royal Caribbean isn’t alone. Carnival Cruise Line is also sailing directly to Half Moon Cay out of Miami. MSC Cruises this year also offers a quickie three-night cruise from Port Canaveral to its private island Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
Disney Cruise Line has short cruises that only call at Disney’s Castaway Cay and, starting next year, its new Lighthouse Point, which opens next June. Disney will also offer longer sailings that only stop at its destinations: A six-day cruise from San Juan in November 2024 will cruise to Castaway Cay and Lighthouse Point before finishing in Galveston, Texas.
The number of itineraries that only visit a private islands is still in the minority among the cruise industry’s offerings, which often include Nassau, Bahamas, or other Caribbean destinations. That’s good news for governments like the Bahamas, which, perhaps sensing this trend, is looking to impose a higher per-passenger tax when cruise lines stop at a private island in the country without calling at Nassau or Freeport.
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